If we have your attention, chances are that you want to lose weight. We’ll make sure that the article is worth your time and provides you with proven methods and information so that you can be well on your way to shedding fat.
Before we start, I’d like to dispel the myth that is ‘spot fat reduction’. Our bodies store fat in different locations for various reasons. It is therefore obvious that you can’t lose fat around a certain body part by exercising that body part. Doing crunches and other abdomen exercises will not cause you to lose fat around the belly. Fat is lost from the entire body as a result of diet and regular exercise. Any device or workout that attributes significant fat-loss to a localised approach is not worth your time.
Let us first examine the reasons for increased belly fat. We will then be in a better position to talk about ways of reducing it.
Metabolic syndrome, also known as syndrome ‘X’, is a medical disorder characterized by the so-called ‘deadly quartet’; Abdominal obesity, high fasting sugars, high triglycerides and high blood pressure. This condition eventually leads to patients developing non-alcoholic fatty-liver disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Estimates show as many as 25% of Americans are afflicted.
Obesity, blood lipid levels and blood pressure can all be controlled by a dietary intervention, with increased consumption of anti-oxidant rich plant food that is low in fat and reducing inflammatory agents within the diet. The effectiveness of such a dietary intervention was under debate for quite some time, until recently; –
Even after adjusting for lifestyle factors such as smoking and exercise, a recent study concluded that the risk was highest for those eating a mainly non-vegetarian diet and lowest among vegetarians (who had about half the risk).
Bottom-line: If you are one of those people who can’t seem to lose weight regardless of what you try, or if you are struggling with belly fat along with any other symptoms of metabolic syndrome, It might be a good idea to adopt a vegetarian diet.
High-fat diets, carbs versus fat
Dietary fat has been a subject of much contention over the years and so we’ll try to keep things as simple as possible to get the general idea across.
The amount of fat that is healthy for us is so minimal that it is nearly impossible to not get enough of. You will find it hard to find someone who is suffering poor health as a result of ‘not enough fat’.
Let’s face it, the fat you eat is the fat you wear. When you see a big belly or flabby arms, fat is a major component of producing the effect. Excess fat is stored in the adipose tissue that is essentially what leads to visible signs of obesity.
Yes, excess carbohydrates can be converted into fat by the liver in some circumstances but the key part there is ‘conversion’, a two stage process, while excess fat goes almost directly into adipose tissue.
There are high fat diets that promote using fat as your fuel source so that you burn more of it but those require you to restrict carbs, which means that your fat intake essentially negates any increased fat utilization for energy.
Eat more fat to burn more fat = the end result is still fat.
But that’s not all. High fat intake, apart from causing obesity directly, also contributes to it indirectly by increasing fasting insulin levels, inducing insulin resistance and impairing circulation. Add sugar to the mix and you have a disaster waiting to unfold.
Bottom-line: High fat inside = high fat outside
Metabolic damage, or to use the scientific term, Adaptive thermogenesis is a condition that typically follows periods of sustained calorie restriction and is observed most notably in patients recovering from eating disorders such as anorexia. Short term calorie restriction can also produce some of these effects, notably belly-fat and increased waist circumference.
Unfortunately, most weight-loss advice these days seem to rely on the ‘eat less, move more’ principle, an oversimplified and outdated understanding of human physiology.
While eating less is a sure-fire way of losing weight, people are often surprised to find the weight eventually coming back, in some cases putting on even more weight than before.
Recent trends of Intermittent fasting can also compound the problem and you can read our take on it here; https://www.fitnesstep1.com/intermittent-fasting/
The reasons for this complete process are quite complicated as they involve several glands in the endocrine system, among other things, and I would highly recommend you read this study:-
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3673773/ if you’re interested in the details.
In summary, if you go on a diet where you start consuming less than your maintenance calories, the amount your body needs to function every day, you essentially signal your body that there is a state of famine and that it should take countermeasures (i.e. store fat) the next time more calories are available. This is done so as to prepare for the next emergency, should there be one.
Needless to say this is an undesirable effect and should not be invoked unless there is a real food shortage.
People with a history of such restriction might find themselves putting on weight even if they consume no fat and eat healthy. This is just the recovery phase of the condition and if calories are abundant again with low-fat intake, body weight and belly fat will eventually stabilize and start to trend downwards.
Bottom-line: If you have a history of struggling with weight, it might be a good idea to assess your situation and change your approach.
So, we’ve established 3 important causes of obesity, abdominal or otherwise, as:-
- Metabolic Syndrome
- High-fat diets
- A damaged metabolism
These would have hopefully provided you some insight into what causes one to gain that belly in the first place.
Let’s look at some proven methods of losing the fat:-
A low-fat, low protein, plant-based diet
Diet is by far the most important factor in determining body fat. The science at our disposal indicates that you cannot out-train or out-fast a bad diet.
Read our protein article here; https://www.fitnesstep1.com/how-much-protein-should-you-eat-per-day/
The science also clearly points to a whole-food diet including loads of fresh fruit and vegetables as not only being healthiest, but also the most slimming lifestyle choice one can make. Anecdotal evidence suggests that even the sedentary among the cultures that eat such a diet have very low body-fat and almost non-existent lifestyle related diseases. And of course, there is a ton of scientific evidence (which you can find below) supporting this as well.
The graph at the top of the article demonstrates the powerful effects of a vegetarian diet, which when combined with the fiber and anti-oxidant payload of fresh fruits and vegetables, provides a lasting formula for a fit and healthy life.
Because of the high-fiber content of this sort of food, it makes it almost impossible to over-eat and therefore it self-regulates your caloric intake. Being able to eat in abundance also signals your body that it does not need to hoard fat, essentially contributing to a healthy metabolism.
Bottom-line: Eat more starches, root and leafy vegetables, more fruit and grains of your choice and reduce fat intake.
Daily low-intensity exercise
While an improved diet will by itself help you lose the gut, your progress and results will be nowhere as good and as fast as they could be with exercise.
Let’s face it, exercise has so many beneficial effects that it has to be a daily ritual for anyone even remotely interested in health.
Why low-intensity though? Well, the body alters its fuel ratio depending on your level of exertion. At lower intensities the body is using a higher percentage of fat versus carbohydrates as its source of fuel. Obviously this is desirable and therefore sticking to a lower intensity is a good idea if fat-loss is your goal.
A lot of ‘quick’ weight-loss methods advice you to follow ridiculous high-intensity workouts that, as we’ve discussed before, simply burn increasing amounts of carbs versus fat. At the highest intensities, the body is running on carbs exclusively. What this essentially means is that these folk burn a bunch of sugar, leaving fat almost untouched and tire themselves for little to no benefit.
Yes, they do burn a little fat as a result of the increased metabolism from the intensity AFTER the exercise but nowhere near as much as they would’ve burned by staying in the correct zone DURING the exercise.
One of the reasons why so many people go the high-intensity route is time. A typical HIIT session will last 20 minutes whereas we would recommend 60-90 minutes of light cardio to get the maximum health benefits along with the most fat loss.
We hope you’ll agree that your health is worth this time, your body and waist-line will thank you for it.
Bottom-line: An hour to an hour and a half of walking, jogging, spinning/cycling or any other form of low-intensity exercise every day will give you the best possible waist-reduction.
In increasingly stressful times, it’s possible to forget about the positive effects of enough good quality sleep. Not sleeping enough has been associated with weight gain, including an increased waist-line and any long-term health or body goal cannot be achieved without getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep consistently.
Bottom-line: Sleep is important when it comes to managing stress hormones which have a direct effect on health and weight. Get the early nights and sleep yourself to a slimmer waist!
Our three, proven methods of losing weight are: –
- A low-fat low-protein plant based diet
- Daily low-intensity exercise
- Ensuring sufficient sleep
We guarantee that this is the best you can do to get rid of that annoying belly fat and unwanted body fat in general. For further reading as well as details on how this article was researched, please check the referenced studies below:-
* A systematic review and meta-analysis of changes in body weight in clinical trials of vegetarian diets
* Type of vegetarian diet, body weight, and prevalence of type 2 diabetes.
* The effects of a low-fat, plant-based dietary intervention on body weight, metabolism, and insulin sensitivity.
* Vegetarian dietary patterns are associated with a lower risk of metabolic syndrome
* The deadly quartet. Upper-body obesity, glucose intolerance, hypertriglyceridemia, and hypertension
* Adaptive thermogenesis in humans